Tag Archives: peace

Finding What’s Most Important

I despair for my involvement in humanity, religious and otherwise. I suppose it was predictable. In fact, a lot of people predicted it. I pretended that I could go it alone, but in the end, it wasn’t possible, let alone reasonable.

I’ve been through the religious argument wars, the Jewish identity wars, the “you’re just a Goy” wars, and I’ve survived. But it’s gotten worse, much worse.

My Aberrant Theology was bad enough, having to struggle with the various flavors of normative Christianity, which frankly, hasn’t appealed to me for quite some time.

But given all of the recent racial unrest, assaults, murders reported in the mainstream media lately, religious people who are also what have been called Social Justice Warriors (not the person who originally posted this to Facebook but one of the more vocal commentators), who are also religious and at least in theory, hold a theological view somewhat similar to my own, I despair.

What’s the point of attempting dialog when each and every time, the only answer is to remain silent or capitulate?

I tried to clarify my views and seek a dialog, but when the discussion got to a certain point, it was abandoned, probably because I didn’t “see the light”.

It’s just like church. It’s just like the contention in Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots, at least as far as my involvement has been.

I know it’s my fault. I’m not easy to live with (a fact my wife can confirm). I don’t play well with others. I don’t roll over. I ask too many questions. When pushed, I push back. Nobody likes that, especially when the point of online debates is to be right and to make sure everyone else knows they’re wrong.

Social justice sounds nice, it sounds, well… “just”, but just like religion, it’s only as good as its weakest link…human beings.

I admit that as I’ve gotten older, my tendency toward being somewhat misanthropic has increased. Yesterday, I put my one year old granddaughter in a stroller and took her for a walk in the neighborhood. During the walk, I kept identifying the potential threats to my grandchild. The family walking two large dogs. The pre-teen boys playing basketball and not paying attention to their proximity to my granddaughter and the potential for collision. Cars driving too fast through the neighborhood.

My granddaughter loves to go for walks, but by the time we got back home, I was a nervous wreck.

Religious pundits make me nervous. So do social justice warriors. At least in social media, they want me to agree with them while asking no questions and simply accepting what they believe is self-evident; that they are always right.

Some months ago, I did a purge on Facebook, Google+, and twitter to eliminate some of the more negative forces in my life. I really need to find more peace and less contention. I don’t thrive on conflict and bringing conflict to others. I need to stop letting myself be drawn into endless and fruitless debates.

It’s nothing personal. I need to do this for me, not against you. It’s been over two weeks since I’ve posted here. Granted, I’ve blogged elsewhere, but even at Powered by Robots, I’ve allowed conversations to occur I never should have. What started out as a venue for my fiction writing turned into a social platform, at least some of the time.

I’m tired of fighting.

I’m considering what next to eliminate from my life so I can reclaim some peace of mind. Maybe killing all news feeds would be a start.

One of the few things I’m sure of is that my grandchildren love me. My grandson loves playing with me, and my granddaughter smiles and laughs when she first sees me after we’ve been apart. That should be what’s most important. Not jumping through the religious and social hoops of people who need something from me I do not have to give.

I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. If God wants me, He certainly knows where to find me. I’ll be on the floor playing with children. And later in the night, I’ll be sleeping and dreaming of tomorrow.

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Illuminating the Darkness

“When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness.”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

In the wake of the devastating Islamic terrorist attack on the city of Paris, I really wish I could “illuminate the darkness,” as Rabbi Freeman suggests. But all I can see is the encroachment of that darkness on our world, the coming of destruction, the advent of great evil.

MessiahYesterday, I cried out how long, Moshiach…how long until you come? I know he heard. I know he will come. But how many more must suffer and die, how often must evil believe it has won because it stands unopposed, until Hashem has said it is enough, and the final war begins?

Insanity, from frivolity to massacre, rule our planet, and if I had to depend on the news media for my global view, I would believe there were no sane human beings left and that our world was already doomed.

And yet, these are the times when our faith is tested, when we have to face the question of whether God has abandoned us, or worse, that there is no God and we live in a universe where morality is always relative, and that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Or can we believe that this too indicates the birth pangs of the Messiah must become ever more severe before the time of his return?

If we can sustain our faith, we will believe the latter.

I want to illuminate the darkness, to sweep away despair, to shine like a light on a hilltop, but frankly, I’m not that heroic. All I can do is keep slogging away, moving forward, hip deep in mud, doggedly determined, and hope and pray I can keep going until the great and terrible day of the Lord.

I pray that for us all. I pray that for Paris, for those who continue to suffer in the aftermath of September 11th, for those who suffer everyday in Israel at the hands of terrorists…at the hands of evil.

In a statement attributed to Edmund Burke, Charles F. Aked, and others, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I want to get political and say that the “good men” of our government habitually “do nothing,” but this war won’t be won by nations and political parties because it’s not a war of nationalities, but rather, of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil.

However, this isn’t to say we have no participation and that we must watch silently as this all plays out in the spiritual world. No, we are very much involved. People are dying. Our enemies are gloating. We must respond.

paris attacks
Credit: BBC News

But how?

Pray?

Yes, but as a meme I saw recently on the web stated, we must also be prepared for violence, and even for some of us, to do violence. Soldiers will fight in very human wars as they always have, and many more will die.

I don’t know what to do except what I am doing…writing. Pray for Paris, pray for the defeat of ISIS, but most of all, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It’s not that God doesn’t weep for the people slain in France last Friday night, but we must admit that Israel, of all the nations, is at the center of His mind and heart and spirit. It is through the redemption of Israel that the rest of the nations will be redeemed.

It is in the war to defend Israel that Hashem, Master of Legions, will defeat all evil forever.

However horrible the terrorist attack against Paris is, it’s just another skirmish. The war is coming. We must be ready. We must be ready to give battle. We must be ready to be the light of the world. We must be the light of the world now, so the world, if it wills, will draw near the light of Moshiach, our master, our King.

peaceHe will prevail and in him, we will prevail as well. Indeed. We have already prevailed if we don’t wait for the peace of our Rav to come in the future but to seek it and embrace it now, even in the face of great adversity.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB)

Search for God and Find Yourself

God called unto man [Adam] and said to him, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:9

We read in Genesis that after Adam sinned, he tried to hide in the Garden of Eden. Was Adam so foolish to think that he could hide from God? Certainly not! He was hiding from himself, because it was himself that he could no longer confront. God’s question to him was very pertinent: “I am here. I am always here, but where are you?”

Adam’s answer to God describes man’s most common defense: “I was afraid because I was exposed, and I therefore tried to hide” (Genesis 3:10). Since people cannot possibly conceal themselves from God, they try to hide from themselves. This effort results in a multitude of problems, some of which I described in Let Us Make Man (CIS, 1987).

We hear a great deal about people’s search for God, and much has been written about ways that we can “find” God. The above verse throws a different light on the subject. It is not necessary for people to find God, because He was never lost, but has been there all the time, everywhere. We are the ones who may be lost.

When an infant closes it eyes, it thinks that because it cannot see others, they cannot see it either. Adults may indulge in the same infantile notion – if they hide from themselves, they think they are hiding from God as well. If we find ourselves by getting to know who we are, we will have little difficulty in finding God, and in letting Him find us.

Today I shall…

…try to establish a closer relationship with God by coming out of hiding from myself.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
from “Growing Each Day” for Shevat 4
Aish.com

As human beings, we have the power to remake ourselves and to some degree, even those around us, just by how we behave and how we choose to think of ourselves and other people. A person who goes around chronically depressed or angry is likely to be pretty unhappy and be surrounded by other depressed or angry people.

OK, it’s more complex than that, but the idea is that if you continually involve yourself in doing good and behaving (and even thinking) as if you are constantly surrounded by good people, it is more likely that you will feel better about yourself, and other people will regard you well. At least it beats the alternative I outlined in the previous paragraph.

Rabbi Twerski brings up an interesting idea. People are always searching for God. I myself mentioned that I am continually pursuing God. Why? Is God running away from me? According to R’ Twerski, it’s the other way around. If I feel the need to pursue God, it’s because I’m the one running away from Him. If I need to search for God, it’s because I’m (futilely) trying to hide from Him. In the end, since no one can run and hide from God, all I accomplish is running and hiding from myself, and probably many other people in my life.

Serenity promotes peaceful and harmonious relationships with other people. We have often cited the verse, “As in water, face to face, so too is the heart of one person to another” (Proverbs 27:19). When you speak serenely to someone, the peaceful energy puts the other person in a better state, and usually that person will speak more pleasantly to you.

(From Rabbi Pliskin’s book, Serenity, p.17)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Serenity Promotes Harmonious Relationships”
from “Today’s Daily Lift #234”
Aish.com

SpeakObviously, this won’t work in every single case, but as a general rule, how you speak to someone (or address them in other ways including digital social media) is going to have an effect on how they respond to you.

But remember that all this starts with you and how you talk to yourself.

You are the person with whom you talk to most often. To become a serene person, consistently talk to yourself serenely.

Become aware of the tone of your voice when you speak to yourself. This often is so automatic that many people never consider it an issue. But it can be a major factor in whether or not you are usually serene.

(From Rabbi Pliskin’s book, Serenity, p.37)

-R’ Pliskin
“Speak to Yourself Serenely”
from “Today’s Daily Lift #98”
Aish.com

If you believe you are not a good person and that others don’t like you, chances are you’ll behave as if you’re not a good person and people really won’t like you. I’m not advocating that you become an egomaniac and think you’re the best thing God created since sliced bread, but God did create you (and me) for a reason, and He must have had a good reason for doing so.

I’ve heard it said (I can’t find the source right now) that each Jew should consider the world as having been created just for him or her. I know that sounds pretty bold, but expanding the idea to all human beings, we learn that each individual is precious to God and so we each have a very specific purpose in His design. God just didn’t create a “human herd” and relate to us only as “the masses,” God relates to us as individuals, just as He did with Adam when he tried to hide from God (or rather, from himself) in the Garden.

If each of us is that important to God, shouldn’t we treat ourselves with respect and speak to ourselves with serenity?

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 12:28-33 (NASB)

I know I’m stretching the interpretation of these verses a bit, but is it too much to consider ourselves as our own neighbor? If how we treat others flows out of how we speak to and treat ourselves, then shouldn’t we first treat ourselves with love and respect and allow that to direct how we speak to and treat others? After all, if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must first love ourselves.

But the first of these two greatest commandments is to love God. Why? Because He loves us in an unparalleled and unbounded manner. God’s capacity to love far exceeds any person’s capacity, so He loves each one of us far more than we could possibly love ourselves, each other, and much more than we are capable of loving Him.

Life isn’t easy. Even having the most positive attitude possible won’t prevent bad things from happening. It won’t always prevent you (or me) from sinning and letting that sin separate you (or me) from God and other people.

Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting.

Pirkei Avot 3:1

freeIf we keep God constantly before us and don’t attempt to hide from Him (which is impossible) and ourselves, then Akavia ben Mahalalel is right and we won’t (at least not as often) come into the hands of transgression and sin. And if we accustom ourselves to do more good deeds instead, then who we are will slowly change for the good and who we are with God and with others will change for the good as well.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

If we pursue God’s peace, then His peace will find us.

Sacrificing Serenity for Spirituality

And Yaakov sat…

Braishis (Genesis) 37:1

Rashi cites the Sages who say that Yaakov wanted to live in peace and serenity. But this was not to be, and the troubles of his son Yosef began. The Almighty said, “Is it not sufficient for the righteous that they receive their reward in the world to come? Why do they need to live in serenity in this world?”

The question arises: why is it wrong to want to live in serenity? Yaakov desired serenity not so that he could devote his time to personal pleasures, but rather to be able to engage in spiritual pursuits.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Keep your focus on growth, not serenity,” p.102
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayeishev
Growth Through Torah

When I’m stressed, when things aren’t working out right, when relationships are strained, more than anything, I want peace and serenity. I want to relax. I sometimes want everyone just to get along, and at other times, I just want to be alone to follow both personal and spiritual pursuits without interruption and distraction.

So midrash aside, I can very much empathize with Jacob’s desire for peace and serenity.

But I think Rashi, as interpreted by Rabbi Pliskin, has a point. We weren’t put here by God to seek peace and serenity, we were put here to serve Him. Serving God is rarely very peaceful. Just look at lives such as Abraham’s, Jacob’s, Joseph’s, Moshe’s, David’s, Jeremiah’s, and of course, our Master Yeshua’s (Jesus’) life. Also consider the apostles, particularly Paul. Was their service in spreading the good news of the Moshiach to the Jews and to the nations particularly peaceful? Most of the time, it was ultimately fatal in a violent and premature sense.

May God not wish me to serve him in such a manner for I know my faith and trust pale in comparison to even the least of the Biblical tzaddikim (righteous ones or “saints”).

But R. Pliskin said “growth, not serenity,” which I take to mean that rather than seeking peace, we should be seeking to experience our lives as the platform upon which we strive to grow spiritually, to grow closer to God.

This, said Rav Yeruchem, is an attitude we should all internalize. Every occurrence in this world can make you a better person. When you have this awareness your attitude towards everything that happens to you in life will be very positive. Before, during, and after every incident that occurs reflect on your behavior and reactions. Ask yourself, “What type of person am I after this happened? How did I do on this test? Did I pass it in an elevated manner?” (Daas Torah: Barishis, pp.222-3)

-ibid

The Jewish PaulThis means that regardless of our circumstances, good or bad, we should approach the experience in the same manner, as a test or a “training session” designed to assist us in becoming more spiritually elevated. Of course, to be in a position to look at everything from ecstasy to agony in this way probably requires that we be in a fairly elevated state already. I don’t think I’m there yet, but maybe being aware that it’s possible will give me something to shoot for.

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB)

If the ancient and modern Rabbinic sages can apply this principle to Jacob, I think it’s reasonable to apply it to Paul as well. This gives it a more universal usage which means it comes right back to my front door, so to speak. The goal of trust and faith in God and living a holy life then, is not to find peace in our circumstances, but regardless of what is happening to us, to find peace in God as Paul did.

“And Yosef was brought down to Egypt.”

Braishis (Genesis) 39:1

Anyone viewing the scene of Yosef being brought down to Egypt as a slave would have considered it a major tragedy. His brothers sold him into slavery and he was being taken far away from his father and his homeland. But the reality was that this was the first step towards his being appointed the second in command of Egypt. He would eventually be in charge of the national economy of Egypt and would be the mastermind behind the complex program to prepare for the years of famine during the years of plenty.

-Rav Pliskin
“Realize that you can never tell how events will actually turn out in the end,” p.110

Being limited, temporal beings, our major focus is what is happening to us right now or what has just recently occurred. If it’s something unpleasant, then we tend to believe that it is also undesirable. Joseph probably felt that way when he was being sold into Potipher’s household and certainly would have that experience upon being sent to prison.

If only you would think of me with yourself when he benefits you, and you will do me a kindness, if you please, and mention me to Pharaoh, then you would get me out of this building. For indeed I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing for them to have put me in the pit.

Genesis 40:14-15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

After two years in prison, Joseph’s words give us no indication that he was viewing his continued incarceration as anything but a miscarriage of justice, and an unfair and unpleasant circumstance. He had not “learned to be content in whatever circumstances” he found himself in. With great respect to the Rabbis, I don’t think midrash sufficiently describes Joseph’s personality or spirituality. While he did indeed have great faith and trust in God, he really wanted to get out of prison and he was willing to ask for help from a potentially influential person, a bit of quid pro quo, as it were.

Joseph in prisonPerhaps Joseph realized what God had done in retrospect, but it doesn’t seem that he realized it when he was still locked up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Joseph acted with utmost integrity and morality, both as a slave and as a prisoner. If he had given up hope and surrendered to despair, engaging in the baser behaviors of a prison inmate, then he certainly would not have been in position to take the next step in God’s plan.

The take away from this is that regardless of circumstances, even if you (or I) can’t possibly see how they can be beneficial at the time they’re happening, we must continue to behave (or start behaving) in a moral and upright manner for who knows how you can affect what happens next by what you decide to do now? And if you (or I) fail in this, there’s still time to repent, but that time is not limitless:

He took up a parable and said: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came to seek fruit from it, but he did not find any. He said to the vinedresser, “Look, for three years I have come to seek fruit in the fig tree, but I have not found any. Cut it down; why should it waste the ground?” He answered and said to him, “My master, leave it alone for another year, until I have dug around it and given it some manure. Perhaps it will produce fruit. If it does not produce, then cut it down the following year.”

Luke 13:6-9 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

A Review of the Sinai Ethic: On the Way to Sinai

All her ways are ways of pleasantness. And her paths are peace. She is a tree to those who lay hold of her: Those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Proverbs 3:16-18

The Sinai Ethic was originally presented by Rabbi Russ Resnik, executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), during the annual First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Shavu’ot Conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin. Shavu’ot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the pouring out of the Spirit, is a holy and deeply spiritual time that provides a reverent connection with the people of God who heard the words of the LORD spoken from the fire at Mount Sinai. These teachings, given in three sessions during the festival, focus on the moral and ethical mandates that the giving of the Torah established for the Jewish people and all nations.

-from the back cover of the CD for the audio teaching, “The Sinai Ethic”

Session One: On the Way to Sinai

I received this packet of two audio CDs containing the three sessions that make up Rabbi Resnik’s “The Sinai Ethic” presentation some time ago, but until now, I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to any of them, let alone write a review. So on a warm and pleasant Sunday afternoon, having completed the construction of my humble sukkah on my back patio, I set about to listen to the first of the three lectures.

I don’t know what I expected, but whatever it was, this wasn’t it.

Actually, it took me awhile to figure out what R. Resnik was getting to, that is, the actual topic and point of his presentation. I suppose it would have helped if I paid attention to the overall theme of this year’s FFOZ Shavuot conference, but since I didn’t attend, it really wasn’t on the forefront of my thoughts.

Rabbi Resnik started out with a familiar topic, the Shabbat. In Exodus 20, he states the commandment is to “remember the Shabbat”, but in Deuteronomy’s repeat of the Ten Commandments, it shifts to “observe the Shabbat”. Of course one must remember in order to keep and observe, or perhaps it’s the other way around. The point is that “remembering” isn’t a matter of holding an idea in your thoughts, but in re-enacting an event. It’s what Shavuot does when Jews are called up to the bema to read the Torah portions, just as the ancient Israelites went up to Mount Sinai to hear the Torah and receive it.

I want to make sure I insert this next part because it’s the cornerstone of Resnik’s talk. He quotes a Rabbi who lived sometime around 400 CE and who said (I’m paraphrasing):

All that is written in the Torah is for the sake of peace.

That’s a nice sentiment, but there is plenty recorded in the Torah that doesn’t sound very peaceful. The taking of the Land of Canaan, for example, was anything but peaceful. In fact, it was war.

Speaking of re-enacting…

Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’

Exodus 6:6-7 (NASB)

Rabbi Russ Resnik
Rabbi Russ Resnik

There are four promises in these verses that are re-enacted during the Passover seder with the four cups. God’s promises to take the children of Israel out of Egypt, free them from bondage, redeem Israel, and take them for His people as their God.

But there’s a fifth promise spoken of in verse eight:

I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.’”

God will fulfill the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promise of the Land of Canaan, and give the Israelites possession of it.

There are two important things to remember here about the Israelites and the Land:

  1. The Promise of the Land
  2. Possession of the Land

In Genesis 12:1-3 and again in Genesis 15:1-16, we see God making this promise to Abraham and acting out its confirmation. This promise is totally without condition. Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob don’t have to do anything at all for this promise to be given to them, the promise that their descendants will one day possess the Land. Nothing can take this promise away.

But here’s where the “Sinai Ethic” comes in:

Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.

Genesis 15:16

The promise is unconditional, but taking possession isn’t. The Israelites couldn’t take possession on a whim. Certainly Abraham couldn’t possess any part of the Land, even though technically, he held the deed. In fact, after Sarah dies, he must buy the cave of Machpelah and the surrounding field for a hefty price in order to bury his wife.

Abraham and his descendants received the promise of the Land, but they couldn’t take possession until the iniquity of the inhabitants in current possession reached a certain threshold that triggered God’s judgment upon them.

But that’s not the only condition. In fact, the entire giving of the Torah at Sinai was not only the list of conditions the Children of Israel had to obey to hold up their end of the covenant, it was the conditions for taking possession of the Land. And while the promise isn’t conditional, taking and keeping possession is.

What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

Galatians 3:17

sinai
Sinai

Resnik says the context of this verse has to do with the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, but the underlying principle has to do with promises and possession. The fact that God made the Sinai Covenant with Israel in no way made void or invalidated the promise He made with Abraham. A subsequent covenant or event never nullifies a previous covenant or a promise of God.

Period.

(As an aside, going back to the context of the above-quoted verse, I could interpret this, based on the principle, to mean that the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles in no way undermines or reverses God’s covenant promises to Israel, either the Sinai or the New Covenant, but that’s not what Resnik was driving at, so I digress)

Resnik applied this principle to our day-to-day lives as individual believers. The world doesn’t like committed religious believers and Resnik says some of that is our fault. We have become arrogant. We say we have the promises, and forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection, and at least some of us talk and walk around like we’re “too cool for school” (my words, not Resnik’s). The technical term in religious circles is “Triumphalism.”

Yes, the promises we have received as believers are true and they are real, but we haven’t taken possession of them yet. The resurrection has yet to come, just as Abraham had the promises but did not have possession. Like him, we need to learn to walk humbly before God and man, living out our faith day by day in obedience.

“Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.”

Deuteronomy 6:10-13

Taking and then keeping possession of the Land required obedience to God’s commandments. When the Israelites obeyed God, they lived well in the Land. When they didn’t, the promise of the Land was still intact, but typically the Israelites went into exile and (temporarily) lost possession of the Land. In some ways, the exile isn’t really over today because Messiah hasn’t returned, many Jews still live outside Israel, and national Israel has enmity with her neighbors (and probably the rest of the world).

sukkot jerusalem
Sukkot in Jerusalem

Which brings us back to that Rabbinic quote about peace, the Torah, and the Sinai Ethic.

Resnik quoted a modern Orthodox Jewish scholar (I tried looking up what I thought his name was on Google but got nothing). As near as I was able to write it down, in part, this Orthodox scholar said he preaches “love of the Land with a high degree of non-violence.”

The gist of this scholar’s statement and Resnik’s agreement to it is that we shouldn’t be too caught up with political and military power for holding onto the modern state of Israel, particularly when it violates peace in the region and around the world. The Jewish people should be prepared to once again lose possession of the Land for the sake of upholding peace, because we know, as the Orthodox Jewish scholar knows, that when Messiah comes (returns), the Jewish people will get back possession of the Land based on the promises anyway.

That was a lot for me to swallow, but let me continue.

It’s not through politics or armies that the promises are fulfilled, but through returning to God in deep teshuvah and being obedient in all His ways. Resnik was careful to point out that we do indeed have a part to play in all this. He’s not advocating total pacifism and immediate surrender to Israel’s enemies, he apparently just wants to put everything in its proper context in that God is the one who will ultimately cause His promises to come to pass.

Remember, Messiah is called Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:9

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

Matthew 5:43-45

To be “sons of God” in this case is to reflect the nature of God. Resnik explained to his listeners that Yeshua wasn’t preaching some pie-in-the-sky ideal, but how to live out practical life in that place and time. Israel was occupied by the brutal Roman empire, and yet the Master preached not only loving your neighbors, your fellow Jews, but even the harsh persecutors, those who pursue you, all for the sake of peace. Jesus wasn’t leading a revolution, even if his disciples and the common people who believed he was the Messiah wanted him to.

At the end of his first of three lectures, this is where Rabbi Resnik left us with the Sinai Ethic.

What Do I Think?

Like I said above, this was totally unexpected. I thought there would be some other focus (though I didn’t imagine what it would be) than the juxtaposition of possession of the Land of Israel by the Jewish people, and the potential for losing possession, all for the sake of the higher value of peace.

One thing I do know is that Messiah will return as a conquering King in the spirit of David, not a “meek and mild lamb”. During his first appearance as the “Word made flesh,” he didn’t put up a fight, even for his own life, but indeed, was led to the slaughter, so to speak, all for the sake of bringing atonement, not only to the Jewish people, but to the world.

That’s not how he’s going to come back.

Of course, since he’s not here yet, Resnik may have a point, but Israel has been through too many wars and won most of them against all odds (and I believe through the providence of God) for me to believe that current Jewish possession of the Land is entirely by human effort. I believe God is already playing a part, a big one, in Jewish people living in Israel today.

I’m not Jewish and I’ve never even been to Israel, but something just sticks in my throat when I even think about the Jews, under any circumstances, rolling over and giving the Land to Abbas and his cronies. “Peace” in the Arab world is something of an illusion. When the Arabs don’t have Jews to fight, they fight each other. I know that probably sounds racist, but that’s the history of the Arab peoples across the long centuries. In fact, Dennis Prager late last month, published an article which highlights my point called What the Arab World Produces.

abandoned_israelBut since “The Sinai Ethic” is made up of all three sessions, with this being just the first one, I could be jumping to a hasty conclusion. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there’s a time for war and a time for peace. God has commanded war for the sake of His people Israel on numerous occasions. The ancient Israelites took the Land originally by force of arms at the command of Hashem, Master of Heaven’s Armies, so it’s not like the Torah only teaches peace and self-sacrifice. Yes, it does teach those things, but as a former instructor of mine once said, “Once in action, watch the timing.”

I’ll listen to and review the second of the three sessions by the by which should add some dimension to what “the Sinai Ethic” means.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

BTW, considering the subject of the kingdom of heaven and the establishment of the physical messianic kingdom on earth in Israel, at present and during the past couple of hours a large area of southern Israel has been under heavy bombardment by missiles fired from Gaza. I’ve spent a portion of that time in my home’s concrete-reinforced shelter room. So far, all but a few of these missiles have been intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome defense system (Baruch HaShem!). The few that landed have not injured anyone or caused serious damage. They have reached, however, as far as the northern suburbs of Jerusalem, as well as to Tel-Aviv, and the alert sirens have blared from BeerSheva to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Hamas claims to have fired toward Haifa, but I have not yet seen any reports confirming that their missiles can actually reach that far. Nonetheless, this is a time for intensive prayer for the continued protection of Israeli citizens, and success for the IDF efforts to destroy Hamas’ capabilities to continue waging war against civilian populations in this or any manner.

-ProclaimLiberty
July 8, 2014 at 3:12 p.m.

It all seemed to start with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Jewish teenagers, Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah, perpetrated by Hamas terrorists. This horrible and tragic event brought Israeli Jews and Jews in the diaspora together in a way that hasn’t happened for a long time. While the IDF made a concerted effort to find the perpetrators, the military and public response was remarkably restrained. Believe me, as a father and grandfather, if one of mine were brutally murdered in what we call in the United States, “a hate crime,” I’d have wanted blood.

But I’m not as noble as the families of the victims.

Apparently in revenge for the killings, a 16-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and found burned to death. Although there were early allegations that Abu Khdeir, supposedly gay, had been murdered by other Palestinians in an “honor killing” and then blame shifted to Jewish Israelis, the latest report is that six Jewish suspects were arrested. It is still highly disputed in some circles that the suspects are the actual killers and that police are covering up for Arab perpetrators, perhaps to stop or at least inhibit the Palestinian rioting that has broken out since Mohammed’s burnt body was discovered.

I heard that one of the mothers of the Jewish victims reached out to Mohammed’s mother, but I can’t find that story online just now (speaking of people more noble than I am), but I do know that Mohammed’s parents refused a visit by President Shimon Peres. In fact, unlike the mothers of the Jewish boys, Mohammed’s mother called for violent revenge against Jews.

Women from Mohammed Abu Khdeir's family hold pictures of the killed Palestinian teenager
Women from Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s family hold pictures of the killed Palestinian teenager

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know where my bias lies in all this, but I’m not writing my “meditation” to bash Palestinians, but rather, to try to put all of this together.

Rabbi Kalman Packouz was recently taken to task by one of the readers of his column at Aish.com for condemning the murders of Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal, but not Mohammed’s.

I received the following email from Judith R. in response to my recent Shabbat Shalom Weekly:
“And no word condemning the despicable murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and referring to him by his name??? What kind of Rabbi are you? Wasn’t he also created in God’s image?”

Of course she is right.

The juxtaposition of attitudes is startling.

But “attitudes” aren’t all people are worrying about in Israel just now.

Some 120 rockets from Gaza were fired at Israel on Tuesday, the first day of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge.

IDF Spokesperson Peter Lerner told the AFP news agency that 23 of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, with most of the rest exploding on open ground causing no damage or casualties.

Hamas upped the ante on Tuesday and extended the range of the rockets.

-Elad Benari
“120 Rockets Fired at Israel During Day 1 of Operation”
First published 7/9/2014, 1:15 a.m.
Arutz Sheva

Hamas has vowed revenge after an attempt to use Palestinian civilians as human shields resulted in several fatalities, as Israeli Air Force planes targeted the home of a Hamas commander.

Gazan emergency services claim Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 15 people on Tuesday and wounded 80 others, as the military began an aerial campaign against terrorists in the Strip and prepares for a potential ground offensive.

-Ari Soffer, Dalit Halevi, and AFP
“Hamas Vows Revenge After Use of Human Shields Goes Awry”
First published 7/8/2014, 5:29 p.m.
Arutz Sheva

Struggling to maintain the banner of ‘resistance’, the Gazan terror group is firing at Israel in the hope Ramallah and Cairo will hear its plea for help.

-Elhanan Miller
“Hamas decides to go for broke”
Published 7/8/2014, 4:02 p.m.
Times of Israel

Smoke rises from Gaza airport
Smoke rises from Gaza airport

And America’s response to all of this?

Hamas terrorists kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers, one of whom was a U.S. citizen.

These jihadist terrorists murdered kids. Yet, the reaction of the Obama Administration has been an absolute disgrace.

Remember, a U.S. citizen was just murdered (along two other Israeli teens) by Palestinian terrorists – known brutal terrorist who routinely fire rockets at Israeli civilians – and the Obama Administration responded by urging restraint.

In fact, President Obama actually urged “all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

Destabilize? Hamas terrorists killed an American teen and all this Administration is concerned about is that things may destabilize?

-Matthew Clark
“President Obama Responds to Hamas Terrorists’ Murder of American Teen with “Strongest Possible” Meaningless Words”
July 1, 2014, 12:47 p.m.
ACLJ.org

OK, that last story is over a week old, but to the best of my information, America hasn’t become more involved diplomatically or in any other way since Hamas started firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians in an all out attempt to provoke other Arab forces to join the violence against Israel.

I do know that although the American press was exceptionally silent about the death of the three Jewish teens, it prominently posted stories regarding Mohammed:

Several Israeli Jewish suspects were arrested Sunday in connection with the killing of a Palestinian teen, Israeli police said.

“Investigation continuing, strong indication a nationalistic incident,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tweeted about the death of Mohammed Abu Khedair.

Rosenfeld told CNN that those arrested were Israeli Jews.

-Kareem Khadder, Ben Wedeman, and Steve Almasy CNN
“Israel arrests several suspects in killing of Palestinian teen”
updated 11:21 a.m., Monday, 7/7/2014
CNN.com

New arrivals at Ben Gurion airport
New arrivals at Ben Gurion airport

If I can be said to have a bias in this situation, so can the American news media…and perhaps the American President.

Amazingly, even in the midst of a war zone, life goes on in Israel:

Making Aliyah is never an easy task, and leaving family, friends and memories behind is enough of a challenge for any new oleh.

But imagine making Aliyah under fire.

That is precisely what 26-year-old Becky Kupchan – one of the 64 new olim who arrived today from the USA – is doing. She is moving from Chicago straight to the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva, despite the fact that the city, like other Negev communities, is currently being rocked by waves of rocket-fire from Gaza.

-Ari Soffer
“Making Aliyah Under Fire”
First published 7/8/2014, 8:06 p.m.
Arutz Sheva

Where am I going with all this? By the time you read this tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, everything I’ve written will be old news. Things could get better or things could get worse. Or things could get much, much worse.

I think of my friends in Israel. I won’t embarrass anyone by naming names. But I’m not limited to my personal feelings for friends and acquaintances. If Israel is under attack, then so are all Jews everywhere. My wife is Jewish. So are my two sons and my daughter. At different times, my wife and my daughter have visited Israel. What if they were visiting there now?

But as I said, Jews are under attack all over the world. If Arab Muslims are firing rockets at Jews in Israel, they are at war with all Jews. The rest of the world, if they/we don’t stand up against terrorism and against this rabid series of rocket launches, are offering tacit approval of this war.

And what’s going to happen when Israel seriously strikes back as the operation continues? If this were happening in America, how long would even the person we have now in the White House stand by and let innocent people be endangered before firing back with all the might in our arsenals, eliminating the hostile forces and everything (everyone) else in the way?

Most of you reading this blog post have never been under fire unless you have served in the military or in law enforcement. How would you like to hear a siren in the middle of the night and have fifteen seconds to get to shelter because after that, it becomes distinctly possible you could be killed in a missile explosion?

Such things don’t happen in America, in Canada, in most or all western nations. They are happening right now in Israel.

pray for the idfIt started (this time) with an act of terrorism and cold-blooded murder that took the lives of three innocent Jewish teenage boys. It escalated with what appears to be a completely misguided revenge killing of another innocent teenager, a Palestinian. And then all hell broke loose.

I can only record how this began, I can’t tell you how it will end. Well, I can tell you that it will end, ultimately end.

“A song of ascents. Of David. Had it not been for Hashem Who was with us, let Israel declare now. Had it not been for Hashem Who was with us when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us raw when their anger was kindled against us. Then the waters would have washed us away; illness would have passed over our soul. Then the wicked waters would have passed over our soul. Blessed is Hashem, Who did not give us as prey for their teeth. Our soul escaped like a bird from the hunters’ snare; the snare broke, and we escaped. Our help is in the name of Hashem, Who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.

Psalm 122:6

The Morality of Israel…Yes, You Can Depend On It.